9.5km (6 miles) E of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac; 530km (310 miles) SW of Paris; 60km (37 miles) NW of Cahors
If Sarlat looks like it could be a movie set, that’s because it is so picture perfect that it actually has starred in a dozen or so films, including Luc Besson’s Jean d’Arc, and Peter Hyams’ D’Artagnan. A pristine collection of medieval architecture and delightful squares, you can’t come to the Dordogne and not at least take a quick stroll through its narrow streets. Unfortunately, you won’t be alone, especially if you come in high season. Traffic can snarl as you enter the town, so try to plan your arrival for early morning, or better yet, late afternoon, when everyone is leaving.
Sarlat grew up around a Benedictine abbey back in the 8th century, but its glory days were in the 14th, when it bustled with artisans, painters, and students. Many of the buildings from that era survived, along with other jewels from the Renaissance and subsequent periods, and the town’s beauty was such that it was the first to be officially preserved by French law in the 1960s. The Old Town (Vieille Ville), which has been carefully restored, is as romantic and historic as ever—if anything, it’s been overly cleaned up, giving it a slightly Disney-esque feel. If you ignore the tourist traps and wander off down the tiny medieval streets, you will still fall under the spell of this beautiful place.